Posted Thursday 14 March 2013
A new report has recommended ways in which allied health professionals can be used more effectively to improve clinical outcomes as well as research, education and training. The paper - Making the Most of Allied Health Professionals - was developed with experts from a range of professions, including Dr Iain Beith, Head of the School of Rehabilitation Sciences at Kingston University and St George's, University of London.
The report was released to coincide with NHS Change Day on 13 March - a national event encouraging health service staff to come up with ideas to improve care for patients, families or carers. It was produced by the Centre for Workforce Intelligence (CFWI), a Department of Health-funded authority on NHS workforce planning and development.
Dr Beith was one of a group of experts asked to contribute, to explore the latest thinking into how allied health professionals (AHPs) can be most effectively deployed to reduce costs and improve outcomes for patients on a range of care pathways. The paper aims to support service and education commissioners, including local education and training boards.
The paper recommends making better use of support workers and assistant practitioners to ensure AHPs are able to do the jobs they are qualified for; ensuring there are enough high-quality practice placement opportunities for AHPs; maintaining and sustaining a high-quality AHP academic workforce that is skilled in clinical research; and making better use of advanced practitioners.
It also highlighted the importance of AHPs in providing a mix of skills in healthcare teams; their key roles in supporting integrated care, working in prevention, cure, rehabilitation and support; and the importance of preceptorship in enhancing the workforce.
Dr Beith has been advising the CFWI for the last 18 months, as an expert from higher education on leadership and pre/post-registration AHP education and training.
He said: "The AHP workforce is a small but integral part of health and social care. In particular, AHPs are key to effective rehabilitation of all patients and client groups. We need to safeguard investment in their education, particularly in providing high-quality practice placements and working in closer partnership with those who educate students in practice.
"This paper will hopefully encourage debate and help identify new opportunities to make the most of these crucial sections of the workforce."
The paper drew on published evidence, local studies and examples of good practice, as well as roundtable discussions between the experts. It took into consideration factors including educational changes, skills mix, and the use of extended and advanced practice roles.
It complements the Department of Health's AHP Quality, Innovation, Productivity and Prevention (QIPP) scheme, a large-scale transformational programme for the NHS, involving all NHS staff, clinicians, patients and the voluntary sector. Last year, the QIPP initiative developed a toolkit to demonstrate how optimising use of AHPs could improve patient care and save money. The new report builds on this toolkit, examining the workforce implications of establishing AHP QIPP pathways.